A blessed year for a very special team

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Nowland
  • 71st Flying Training Wing commander
We're coming to the end of a year that held many blessings. Although we had a brief stumble during the labor dispute this past summer, the men and women who are the strength and spirit of Team Vance came through in style.

We carried on our fine tradition of making dreams come true - every three weeks. Through the efforts of the entire team, active duty, reserve, civilian and our contract partners, we launched a number of flying careers. Parents, spouses, significant others and good friends pinned wings on 416 new military pilots.

In addition to training the best aviators in the world, we also prepared and deployed 109 Air Force warriors in support of our combatant commanders.

Our Airmen, both young and seasoned, male and female, flyers, medics, logisticians, air traffic controllers and security forces - have contributed on all fronts to the Air Expeditionary Force requirements that maintain the blessing of freedom for our nation. Team Vance members have deployed around the world, and we have been blessed to get them all back safely.

We were truly blessed on the safety front in 2009. Our student pilots and their instructors flew more than 54,000 sorties without serious incident or injury. In addition, as a Wing, we drove at least 54,000 miles on the highways without a catastrophic incident.

Although there were a few medical challenges, our bag of blessings included protection from the heavy impact predicted for the H1N1 influenza virus. And as if to prove just how diverse our good fortune is, 84 babies were born this year to our Vance families.

And that brings us to family, our most important blessings. In the Air Education and Training Command we are provided a lot of down days around Christmas and New Year's. The training tempo throughout the year often keeps us from spending the amount of time with our spouses and children that we would like. Now is the time to make up for missed dinners, ball games, dance rehearsals and dirty diapers. Take the time to enjoy your family and friends.

If you're traveling out of the area to be with family, take time to be safe. Don't drive too far without rest. And whatever you do, don't mix alcohol and driving. If you're flying, keep your situational awareness turned on. The objective is to get home safely.

If you're remaining in Enid, enjoy a "stay-cation" with family and friends. Our local community truly embraces the joy of the holidays with lights, events and lots of smiling faces. Get involved, enjoy the community events and think about how you can help your neighbor.

Be careful, be safe, and come back in January refreshed, re-dedicated and ready to make 2010 an even better year for Team Vance.

My wife, Kristan, and our children join me in wishing you and yours a fantastic holiday season and a Happy New Year.